by: Kim Strausser, Principal
Jacob Panlilio, Associate Consultant
While the labor shortage began long before the pandemic, the problem has intensified over the last year as a rampant rise in online shopping, rash of store closures and mandatory social distancing wreaked havoc on warehouse operations.
Labor isn’t the only thing in demand. CBRE predicts that the United States will need an additional 330 million square feet of warehouse space for e-commerce fulfillment by 2025. According to research by Prologis, e-commerce fulfillment requires three times the labor and space of traditional logistics operations, with turnover rates approximately four times that of other uses.
While automation has helped alleviate some of the strain on warehouses, the additional demand and continued growth in e-commerce sales are forcing companies to find new ways to attract and retain top talent. Here are five ways to increase job satisfaction and create an optimal work environment for warehouse employees.
With many warehouses already strapped for space, dedicating a large area for an employee game room, gym or on-site child care may not be feasible. Make break areas more inviting by providing comfortable furniture, relaxing décor, various games, Wi-Fi access, charging stations for mobile devices and free snacks and beverages. Create an outdoor space with picnic tables, basketball hoops and other areas for employees to relax, enjoy and socialize when the weather permits. Since warehouse workers typically have long and unpredictable shifts, companies can provide added convenience for employees by bringing in food trucks, organizing a company carpool program or even covering the costs of rides and meal delivery.
Temperature and lighting
Extreme temperatures and inadequate lighting not only affect employee wellbeing and productivity but can also compromise worker health and safety. Incorporating windows and skylights into your warehouse design can improve ventilation and also provide access to natural light, which studies show is the highest rated office perk among many employees. In addition to bringing in more daylight, companies should consider replacing old fluorescent bulbs with LED fixtures, which enhance visibility, produce less heat and reduce maintenance and energy costs.
Determine ways to minimize the amount of time it takes employees to get from one place to another, including restrooms, break rooms and other frequently used areas within the warehouse. This goes for outside the warehouse too—ensure employee parking is located within a short walking distance of the building and away from high-traffic areas that could pose a safety hazard.
Automation and technology
With less labor available, existing employees are likely feeling overworked. Many companies are trying to combat the shortage with automation. Robotic goods-to-person solutions such as automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS) and autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) that deliver goods to workers can significantly reduce travel time for employees while also increasing throughput and order accuracy. In addition to robotics, software and wearable devices are also gaining popularity in the warehouse. These tools can be used to monitor worker safety and health, streamline processes and provide real-time training and support. Labor management systems can also be used to track performance and recognize and reward employees for going above and beyond.
We’ve all heard the saying, “People don’t leave jobs, they leave managers.” This holds true in the warehouse environment as well, where grueling physical labor, rigid shifts and unfavorable work conditions are more common than in other professions. Companies must invest the time and money in hiring and retaining top talent in middle management. These managers can make employees feel valued and appreciated by fostering a collaborative culture, improving communication and processes and soliciting feedback from front-line workers. Managers that encourage and listen to feedback from warehouse workers will not only increase employee satisfaction and retention, but also gain valuable insight that can ultimately improve operations, increase efficiency and reduce costs.
As demand for warehouse space and labor continues to grow, hiring skilled workers will become increasingly competitive. Since warehouse employees don’t have the luxury of working from home, it’s up to companies to create a safe, comfortable and satisfying work environment to attract and retain top talent. Contact us today to learn how to optimize your warehouse operations to combat the labor shortage and meet changing customer demands.